Monday, 21 October 2013

Embracing Autumn

It's hard to believe that October is almost over and we are well and truly into Autumn once more.  On a recent trip to my beloved Lewes in Sussex, I delighted in this window display with its knitted pumpkins.  I once visited New England for the Fall, they really know how to decorate for Autumn and I'd love to go again.  But Lewes was very welcome instead.

Only a few weeks ago, it may even have been ten days, I was still able to pick these splendid roses from the garden.  This is my favourite variety, David Austin's Jubilee Celebration.  I am a Summer-loving girl so although I am getting into Autumn slowly, I am still really missing Summer.  Boo hoo.

I really feel like behaving the same as Charlie Boy.  There has been much lap hogging going on by the furry friends of late.  They are always excellent barometers of the changing climate.  No doubt they are keenly awaiting the big event: the switch on of the central heating.

We've moved into the cosy lounge for a few evenings.  The fire in here has a much larger grate and the room is a little smaller than our family room so it feels much warmer and cosier.

Autumn also brings another much anticipated event in the HenHouse; yes, the Munchkin is yet another year older.  He's not quite a teenager just yet and still small enough for his mum to get away with calling him by his pet name!

A few weeks ago, I was invited along to another birthday party on the other side of London.  This super lady, and I think kindred spirit, I have met through Instagram and the gathering at her lovely home allowed me to meet her and some other fellow IGers.  Erin put on a super spread and we had a good old knit and natter.

It gave me an excuse to have fun with needle and thread and I made her a rather large flower brooch.  Erin is something of the IG brooch queen, a lady after my own heart!  This flower is based on one my heroine Julie Arkell makes so it's one I'm happy to make as a gift but I wouldn't sell (in case you were thinking of asking!)

Talking of brooches, I may have mentioned a while back that I'd been having fun of the sticky, messy variety and getting back to basics with some papier mache.

I've been a bit obsessed with what I loosely term "textile art" of late,  which I suppose is mixed media to those in the know.  To me, it's faffing with paper, fabric, buttons, thread, beads, lace; you name it, it's all going on and boy, do I have the stashes to do it with!

It was back to brooches, using first newspaper then top, fine layers taken from damaged old books, including one from 1906 on the subject of gardening which came complete with handy little line drawings.  The best tip if you are papier mache-ing on a small scale is to use really thin absorbent paper and slim hand-torn strips.  Add oodles of patience and you're getting there!

When that was all dry, I could get on with the bit I love best, as it involved fabric, of course. I love fussy cutting little images from fabric, flowers being my very favourite, no surprises there.  I can while away a lot of time choosing just the right ones.  I also dug into my vintage lace and beads.  Everything was hand made, hand cut and hand sewn with teeny tiny stitches.  Restorative stuff.

Finally, my little collection was finished.

I had help, of course I did!  Jacky Ginge, despite his ageing sixteen years, has learned to make a flying leap from the armchair in my Den onto my cutting table.  There he settles himself right in the middle of whatever I'm doing.  If you are a fellow cat owner, you will already know that this is what pussy cats do best of all.  Purrrrrr.

I don't do just floral, you know!  Loving this one, if I may be so bold to say so.

I never make just one, though I never make the same thing twice, really, either.

As you may have guessed, these little lovelies are waiting patiently over on Etsy to find new homes so if you fancy a little treat for yourself or you have someone special in mind (it's not long until the "Big Event" is it, yikes!)  then I'd love to see you over in my little shop.

Thanks for reading today.  Xxx

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Post Pickering Report

Such a prolonged absence from my blog usually means one thing: that we've been off on a little trip.  And indeed, Mr HenHouse and I have recently returned from our annual pilgrimage to the war weekend in Pickering, North Yorkshire.  If you've read my blog for a while, you'll know that we love attending this event, it's probably, in our opinion, the best 1940's/wartime event on the calendar.  That's because it really has it all: a fabulous steam railway, a lovely little town and brilliant friendly folk who all get into the spirit of things.  

This year, as the Munchkin was in school, it was just the two of us and we did things a little differently.  We stayed firstly in the well-known White Swan Inn right in the main street of Pickering.  

Cosy little bars with log fires and yummy hearty meals were the order of the day, much appreciated after a long (but very enjoyable) day on our vintage feet!  The weather sadly was not kind this year, cold and blowy, sometimes wet.

The first day dawned bright and sunny, however. It was the Friday of the three day weekend, so on with the first vintage outfit it was.  First time out, too,  for what is a favourite 1940's hat.  We set off to explore the town.

Another day, we headed for the station and admired the vintage bus along the way.

There was time to stop for groceries at the little mobile van.

My favourite engine,  Sir Nigel Gresley, was in steam.  Marvellous!

On the Saturday, which was the busiest day, the station was packed with people.  The platform you can see in the photo below is reserved solely for re-enactors so always makes a perfect people watching spectacle.

On the train, it was time to sit back with a spot of apposite reading material.

Back in the station yard, there was a great display on the theme of women in wartime.  So there were lots of highly covetable items of clothing and accessories to admire and many bits of new information to learn and take away.

Of course, I was highly delighted to see this display of typical fabrics of the time!

There were many many opportunities to shop over the weekend, there were more stalls in Pickering than ever.  A few goodies came home, it has to be said.

By night, we repaired to the fabulous Talbot Hotel in nearby Malton where we were spoiled with super comfy beds and deep bath tubs.  Bliss!

Another day, another 1940's outfit!

We headed up to Grosmont by train where there was an RAF display and Mr HH was most interested to have a gander at the (replica) Spitfire.

No visit to Pickering would be complete without a visit to Anne's pop-up tea room above Reeds newsagent in the main street.  Anne and her friends, not forgetting the lovely Cheryl Ann,  turn this into a fabulous vintage-styled tea room for just two days each year and they do a splendid job.  There are vintage embroidered cloths, floral china and yummy home-cooked pastries and cakes.

More usually, the shop offers a gorgeous array of vintage and retro goodies for sale.  Oh the quilt top!

All too soon, it was time to close the chapter on another wonderful trip to Pickering.

Next year cannot come soon enough and we have some super memories in the meantime.


Note: Please respect my copyright and do not copy or pin images of individuals. X

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Terrific Textiles

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved doing crafty things with my hands.  I was always drawing when I was little, my fave tv programmes were Tony Hart and Why Don't You? and afterwards, I'd try to recreate the projects they'd shown in the programmes.  I wasn't brilliant at art, but I could draw, which meant I really enjoyed art lessons at school.  I can remember the art room in my Victorian junior school, a place I loved to be.  And art rooms always had a special smell, didn't they?

The first time I really remember doing much sewing, I would guess I was around eleven or twelve, just started senior school.  My mum had always been able to knit and sew and make clothes as had my nan, who was also an avid crocheter, so for me, it was something I grew up just expecting to be able to do.  We did basic embroidery and sewing at school which I can remember not being that brilliant at!  After school, I used to go to a fabric/curtaining shop which was up by Chester market, and outside, they had a wire basket which contained cheap little remnant bundles.  I used to spend my pocket money on these and go home and make very basic handsewn clothes for my Sindy dolls.  I also remember inheriting my Dad's 1960s-'70s ties, which were made of the most fabulous brocades, I remember loving a shiny textured pink brocade one, which made a fabulous gathered cocktail skirt for Sindy!

I continued with art in senior school, I even took Art GCSE, my Dad took some persuading that it was a "sensible" thing to do.  In retrospect, it probably wasn't as I was a swot really, and arty stuff always took a backseat to my more academic subjects.    I remember my two art teachers discussing which module I should take for GCSE; to me there was no question it would be drawing and painting, but one of my teachers thought I should go for textiles.  I didn't think it was really my thing but I recall one project where I "altered" a shirt, painting it and patching on other textiles and looking back, I realise I probably would have been much better going down that route.  I wonder if I still have that piece?  I think it's probably best left in the attic if it's there!

So recently, textiles have been on my mind.  When aren't they?!  Now may I ask you a personal question?  Do you Pinterest?  Well, I love a bit of Pinterest (except when I see my images and they aren't properly credited), and last week, it struck me that I was very good at repinning things and looking at others' boards, but I never really go back and look at my own boards.  So that's just what I did.  I had a bit of time and was able to start something new.  Of all the images I looked at, I decided to pull out those which were really speaking to me at that time, limiting myself to two pages.

They were all of the sort of thing I love, what I personally would call altered textile art.  To me, that means playing with bits of fabric and stitches, maybe paper too, and making pretty things.  If you've followed my blog a while, you'll know I am a big fan of Julie Arkell who to me, is the original mistress of this medium.  Many have now sprung up creating work similar to hers but she remains for me, the best.  I have however, found some new names to add to that list; Jessie Chorley, Mandy Pattullo and Jone Hallmark to name a few.  It's the intricate faffiness inherent in this work which appeals to me.  The fact you can use all sorts of fabrics and bits and pieces together is another.  Why choose?!

Something I hadn't done since my course at West Dean with Julie Arkell, I gathered together my wallpaper paste and newspapers and decided on a little papier mache.  Ooh, sticky, messy stuff, this time on a small scale. Quite fun, though! 

In between, while my "creations" were drying, I decided to have a little fabric fun.  I looked at my collection of cutters, (of the vintage embroidered cloths variety), and then took up a pile of small vintage fabric patches, being feedsacks and pretty dress cottons.  A spot of folding and pinning, (some spiced chai latte, my new obsession), and I was happily whiling away the hours with some soothing hand stitching.

I had help.  Of course, I did.

I make myself a little pile of cut and pinned bits when I can, ready for a spot of stitching in the odd spare hour, here and there.  I've used a portion from a vintage embroidered cloth as the background for each and then embellished it with trims and fabric patches.

It's the perfect little job for in front of the fire in the evening.

And the papier mache?  After an initial coat of newspaper, I put on the finer top layer taken from an old book.  The thinner the paper the better.  It's also a bonus if it happens to have interesting text on it.  I have no trouble picking these damaged books up for pence at boot sales and flea markets.  After that, I fussy cut some pretty images from my vintage fabrics.  Since then, I've added paint, varnish, more fabric and thread.  They're still mainly unfinished, though, but the whole point of little projects like these is not to rush them.  Just enjoy the soothing unhurried stitching when you can.

I've been pretty addicted to making these embroidered fabric patches. I think it's time to call it a day after the current bunch I have prepared, though, and turn them into the finished article.  My hand quilting is calling to me.

Working with your hands?  You just can't beat it. Xxx